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Books  >   Biographies and Memoirs : General : 

George Palmer Putnam: Representative American Publisher (Penn State Series in the History of the Book)

Greenspan, Ezra

Pennsylvania State University Press
Published:August 1, 2000

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Description: From Publishers Weekly
In 1829, young George Palmer Putnam (1814-1872) arrived in New York as both the city and its book trade were burgeoning. The founder of the G.P. Putnam publishing house (along with a retail firm) in 1848 was an enterprising and creative publisher whose career prefigures many aspects of publishing today. He published huge bestsellers like Susan Warner's The Wide, Wide World (1850) and Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852). Putnam's marketing acumen was particularly keen: he mined his backlist well, publishing various editions of his books (he created Putnam's Railway Library, to be sold at the newly created bookstalls in railway stations); he was one of the first to cultivate American authorsAJames Fenimore Cooper and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were in his stableAand female writers (Catharine Maria Sedgwick was one of his core authors); he initiated tie-in projects, securing an agreement with the organizers of the New York World's Fair to be the official publisher of related books, which he sold at the exhibition as well as through normal channels; and he created an upscale literary journal, Putnam's Monthly (to rival the eminently successful Harper's Monthly), in 1852-53. Greenspan unfortunately dwells on the minutiae of Putnam's career, often in tedious fashion, while more exciting possibilities, such as Putnam's interactions with Melville and Poe, remain underexplored. Nor does Greenspan plumb Putnam's character adequately; he remains a gentlemanly cipher. In the end, this is less a portrait of a man than a fascinating look at the development of American publishing in one of its critical periods. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Description:
A cultural biography of this legendary figure of American publishing.

"A fascinating portrait. This book brings G. P. Putnam to life and contributes in important ways to our understanding of American publishing history." -Robert J. Scholnick, College of William and Mary

George Palmer Putnam (1814-1872) was arguably the most important American publisher of the nineteenth century, a man fully and multiply involved in developments transforming all aspects of literary culture. In this comprehensive cultural biography, Ezra Greenspan offers a wide-ranging account of a rich, productive life lived in print, interrelating Putnam's life with the life of his family (one of the most remarkable of its time), with the changing patterns of life in New York City and the nation, and with the institutionalization of modern print culture in nineteenth-century America.

Putnam's roles and achievements were many: he established and ran the publishing house of G. P. Putnam's in New York City; published many of the leading American antebellum writers, male and female, canonical and noncanonical (indeed, was responsible for the first act of American canonization-of Washington Irving); was the leading publisher of art books in his time and launched Putnam's Monthly; led efforts resulting in the institutionalization of the American publishing industry and was the most outspoken promoter of American authorship; led the fight in the United States for international copyright; was the first American publisher to open an overseas (London) branch office; and for a decade was the leading American agent in the international book trade.

Putnam's achievements were not limited to his professional sphere: he was also the founding Superintendent of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the official publisher to the New York World's Fair of 1853, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue in New York City during the Civil War, and the organizer of the greatest authors-publishers dinner ever given in nineteenth-century America. Friend and confidant to many of the leading figures of his time, he was not simply a centrally placed publisher but was one of the most centrally placed people of his entire society.

This study is based on meticulous archival research into not only Putnam's own papers but into the records of his business, the papers of other fami

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